All that glitters is not gold: People With Dark Personalities Tend to Create a Physically Attractive Veneer


All that glitters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgement old
Your answer had not been inscroll’d
Fare you well, your suit is cold.

Act II – Scene VII – Prince of Morocco,
The Merchant of Venice

________________________

From the Journal of Social Psychology and Personal Science

People With Dark Personalities Tend to Create a Physically Attractive Veneer

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Which personality traits are associated with physical attractiveness? Recent findings suggest that people high in some dark personality traits, such as narcissism and psychopathy, can be physically attractive. But what makes them attractive? Studies have confounded the more enduring qualities that impact attractiveness (i.e., unadorned attractiveness) and the effects of easily manipulated qualities such as clothing (i.e., effective adornment). In this multimethod study, we disentangle these components of attractiveness, collect self-reports and peer reports of eight major personality traits, and reveal the personality profile of people who adorn themselves effectively. Consistent with findings that dark personalities actively create positive first impressions, we found that the composite of the Dark Triad—Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy—correlates with effective adornment. This effect was also evident for psychopathy measured alone. This study provides the first experimental evidence that dark personalities construct appearances that act as social lures—possibly facilitating their cunning social strategies.

 

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